Friday, 29 January 2010

The 5 Best Spectrum Movie Licences!

Whilst I carry on working my way through Resident Evil on the Gamecube, here are some more Spectrum lists for you. First of all, my favourite movie licences, only five this time, because honestly I couldn't think of any more that bothered me that much one way or the other...

5.Aliens (Electric Dreams).
This game really creeped me out as a thirteen year old. Set in a first person view (which was still relatively uncommon then), Aliens saw you controlling various members of the team as they negotiated their way around the space station. It had bags of atmosphere and tension and despite some annoying gameplay tics (if you killed an Alien near a doorway it's acid blood prevented you from progressing), Aliens was a polished and entertaining, albeit tough, game. The rival "US" version by Activision was more episodic and varied but nowhere near as good.

4.Alien (Mind Games).
Another Alien movie adaptation. This tactical combat game from Mind Games (an Argus Press label), based on the original film, amazingly recreated much of the atmosphere of the movie despite the limitations of the hardware. Beginning with the Alien hatching from a random crew member, the player controlled all the remaining crew as they tried to capture the beastie or detonate the spaceship and leg it in the escape pod. Tension was created in subtle ways; a removed grille meant the alien had been around and the characters reacted differently to encounters with dead bodies and the titular alien. A tough game, no doubt but solid scary fun.

3.Licence to Kill (Domark).
After the enjoyment-free zone that was the Living Daylights, Domark upped their game considerably for it's follow up, Licence to Kill. Whilst generally unoriginal, it did offer some variation (you controlled Bond on foot and in vehicles, and there was a swimming level!), and was crucially a playable and addictive scrolling shooter. Some neat, concise graphics completed a superb, if tough to complete, package.

2.Robocop (Ocean).
Robocop the movie was a massive smash in 1988. A combination of sci-fi cool, ultra-violence ((c) Paul Verhoeven) and futuristic satire, it came from nowhere to set the box office alight. I caught up with it on video - I was about four years too young to see it in the cinema - about the time Ocean released the game on the Speccy. First thing I recall is seeing the box; the trend of the "big box" format had rapidly caught on with the major labels, so instead of the plain old boring double cassette cases, we were now being treated to lovely shiny cardboard boxes, ridiculously large considering the small cassette and instruction leafet inside. Recycling and waste management was no issue in those days to me; I just loved seeing those game boxes up on the shelf above my Spectrum.

Robocop the game was a multi-level affair, as was fast becoming common. Stage one was a side-scrolling shooter as the man-machine hybrid walked to the right, taking out various scum at ground level and from the windows above; not really run'n'gun, more stomp-and-shoot. This type of level formed the basis of the game, and around it were other mini-games that enhanced it beyond a normal shooter. First there was a recreation of the infamous alleyway scene (the scene which makes all men wince!) as Robocop has to take out a bad guy using a human shield. There is also a "photo fit" style game where you have to match up all the correct features to identify one of Clarance Boddiker's gang and a scene similar to the alleyway segment as Robocop has to take out dastardly Vice President Dick Jones without harming the President himself.

Robocop was a classy game; the graphics were monochrome to avoid colour clash, but this leant a grim tint to proceedings that suited the game well anyway. It was tough to get to grips with, but once the player learned the various enemy patterns, it became much more enjoyable. The different levels helped and yet the conventional sections would have been great on their own; this along with the superb music meant Ocean had a deserved hit on their hands.

1.Cobra (Ocean).
I have never seen Cobra, the Sylvester Stallone actioner, and severely doubt it is anywhere near as enjoyable as the ZX Spectrum game from Ocean and Jonathan "Joffa" Smiff. I remember hastily unwrapping a mystery present (well a mystery in as far as I didn't know which particular Spectrum game it was!) on Christmas morning in 1986, desperately hoping to see Ocean's The Great Escape. My disappointment didn't last; I knew Cobra had been smashed by Crash Magazine and it wasn't long before it was loaded up and ready to go.

Cobra grabs you from the start and doesn't let go; the humour throughout is refreshing (except maybe for the "murder" key!), the gameplay fast, frenetic and exciting. There's not a lot to it to be honest (only three levels) but it's such a delight to play there's no way it was ever going to get beaten to number one. The graphics are full of character, the animation fluid and the scrolling superb. To cap it off it has brilliant - if slightly odd - music from Martin Galway.

An unexpected surprise at the time, and a true Spectrum classic, regardless of the rather unloved movie it takes it's name from.


  1. What is it with spectrum reviews, be they blogs or books, and the word 'titular'? It's really getting on my titulars.

  2. I just got fed up wth using "eponymous" all the time...